I have a love hate relationship with 3D fighters. Most of the time I avoid them as much as possible as I never really found one I truly like since Bushido Blade 1 and 2, but I understand why people enjoyed them. I did, however, have somewhat of a soft spot for the Soulcalibur series dating back all the way from the first arcade release of Soul Edge. Over time however the series slowly began to decline for myself with strange releases such as Legends and Broken Destiny, as well as questionable design choices such as new and guest characters.. Set after the release of Soulcalibur V and at the request of many fans, Bandai Namco attempts to return the series back to its former glory with Soulcalibur VI.
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: Bandai Namco
Platform: Windows PC, PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), and Xbox One
Release Date: October 18th, 2018
Players: 1- 2 Players
Before I begin with the review, I have to talk about some interesting choices that have been done with this entry to the series. For better or worse, Soulcalibur VI feels as if it tries to appease everyone from gamers old and new, which puts it in a very strange place if you follow the series.
Likewise, I will not go into character balancing as we can spend days arguing over it, only to have it changed with a single patch dramatically. With that being the case I would like to point you to some required listening before we begin.
Opening with the ending of Soul Edge in the arcade or Soul Blade on the PlayStation in the west, warriors from around the world set out to find the ultimate weapon. Sophitia Alexandra ultimately meets with Cervantes de Leon, the current wielder of the Soul Edge, and the two engage in combat. In destroying one of his weapons, part of the soul edge impales her body leaving her badly injured. Taki comes to her rescue, and Cervantes is defeated.
After the battle, the remains of Soul Edge are found by Siegfried Schtauffen. Upon taking up the sword, an event known as the Evil Seed occurs – with its own power infecting others, transforming them into a demonic state and causing them to slaughter people indiscriminately. This warps Siegfried into the Azure Knight known as Nightmare. Even with what has occurred, warriors from around the world continue searching for the cursed sword.
The main story is told in the Soul Chronicle game mode. Following the story of Kilik, it tells the story of his adventure with his companions Xianghua and Maxi in pursuit of Soul Edge.
You can select different events on a time line that unlocks as you play Soul Chronicle, allowing you to experience the story through image based voice over segments. Each character in the game has their own individual stories as well, however this leads me to one of my biggest complaints.
With the way the story is told, if you’re not playing one of the characters listed above, a lot of them don’t feel that connected. Everyone does have motivations or some relationship to the cursed sword, but very few characters are acknowledged in the main plot. Most are just affiliated with other characters or the weapon in some way that allows them an appearance in sub stories.
Aided by the fact that everything is put on a timeline, there can be huge gaps between events, making some of the storytelling feel off and almost like a cliff notes version of why some characters are included in the game in the first place. To myself, this feels like a missed opportunity to re-explore the cast for veterans or go more into characters for the newcomers to the series.
The other single player mode titled Libra of Souls, however, makes up for a lot of the previous shortcomings in terms of storytelling. Utilizing the create a character, gamers are able to put a character of their own creation into an RPG like scenario that allows for some creative interactive storytelling that changes depending on the characters actions.
Providing another look into the story, this mode does help with filling up some holes left by the main story mode. People who have played the Tales of Souls mode will feel right at home with this game mode even with how its been changed and expanded upon in some aspects. While entertaining, over time it can become repetitive and almost feel like a chore and might be better played in small chunks.
Before I discuss gameplay, it’s best for me to discuss Soulcalibur VI’s guest character. Coming from CD Projekt’s role playing game and the book series by Andrzej Sapkowski, Geralt of Rivia from The Witcher franchise has joined the Soulcalibur cast.
Bandai Namco has done a great job bringing him into the game and took a lot of care adapting him into the game, in almost every aspect such as his fighting style, his returning voice actor, and his look. Compared to some other guest characters in the past such as Darth Vader and Yoda, there were a couple of times where I forgot that Geralt was from another game.
Everything would have been spot on with Geralt if it was not for his story in the Soul Chronicle. Without going into spoilers, the way his story was executed was very generic and ended all too quickly, leaving a huge disappointment for a well loved character.
Honestly, its very disappointing that there was a chance to have a lot of exploration, alternative view points, or even an interesting ‘what if’ additions to the plot. Overall, while a wonderful addition to the cast, as a guest he comes of as if he’s just there for no real point or effect.
In terms of combat, Soulcalibur VI really feels like the designers took a step back from the previous releases in the best possible way. It’s almost as if the developers picked what made the features great and brought together for what realistically feels like a improved version of the first couple entries in the series.
Older fans will be happy with the return of its tried and true control mechanics, such as the 8 way run system, its traditional Horizontal Attack, Vertical Attack and kick style, as well as feeling very natural even to gamers who have not played the series in a long while. However like it or not, Critical Edge attacks from Soulcalibur V have returned and are more flashy than before. For better or worse, a couple of new things that have been added can feel like a hit or a miss.
With the meter in the game you are now able to do a couple of things in the game that add a bit more to your combat arsenal. By spending some of your meter bar, you can new cause states that changes characters slightly or adds new abilities called Soul Charge, which allows for a mix up of play.
For myself these new mechanics didn’t feel over the top as I rarely could use them if I was doing well, or had to use them in order to win. The only time I would need to resort to using them is in online matches when fighting an opponent of my skill level or higher.
The one mechanic the game could have done well but fell flat on is the new mechanic titled Reversal Edge. By pushing a button and some simple conditions being met, you will enter a state where the game turns into a rock-paper-scissors game. This overall adds more of an intense cinematic feel to the battle, but is tedious as it removes skill from the game and turns it into a moment of luck.
Likewise, this can happen so often that fights can tend to feel more dragged out. In a particular online match I played, in one round an opponent resorted to using this mechanic as much as possible – causing me to have a strong feeling of apathy to the match.
While the multiplayer beta had a rocky start with extended times to find matches for some, bad lag spikes, and all around felt disheartening to play, the final release of the game does not disappoint. Rarely did I have moments of lag in combat and had nothing but an enjoyable experience.
Sound wise the game does a good job for the most part. Soulcalibur always had a soundtrack that would bring on the feeling of an epic battle or make a situation feel larger than life. The latest installment continues this trend and does not disappoint. In game sounds, including the clashes of attacks, are simple but are matched very well with the action that has been taken.
The part where the audio does get weird, however, is with some voice dialog when playing with English voices – most noticeably during story mode. All too often the delivery of lines felt almost as if coming from a early 1980’s Saturday morning cartoon. This was especially noticeable with the character Ivy in moments when she is trying to bring the feeling of moments of despair.
Returning from previous entries as well as without doubt one of the best extra gameplay aspects is the character creator. Using a simple set of selection tools, and a robust set of costume items, it’s possible to replicate a wide range of characters from other mediums and games and have them battle it out as well as make your own original creations.
These can include characters like Momonga from Overlord, Bayonetta, and even Bowsette – the amount of characters I have seen has been a treat. The only issue I take with the system is the ability to use these characters in online ranked play, which hopefully gets patched out in the future.
Graphically speaking, Soulcalibur VI changes the formula compared to the previous two entries. The graphics are nowhere near as flashy as in part 5 or 6, and depending on whether or not the player is veteran or not – that could be a good or a bad thing.
As the series grew beyond its third iteration, it took to looking a bit more to the overexerted detail in some characters and environments. Towards the end, the series ended on a note that looked more akin to somewhat of an anime based style of game.
Taking a step back from how it was previously, Soulcalibur VI toned down the overly exaggerated details and colors to focus more on making something a bit more more true to life. As a veteran of the series, I found the new direction much improved.
Newer players will find that the series looks great and runs very smooth, creating a visually appealing experience with the characters and the gameplay. However, one fault of this is that some terrain and backgrounds fall flat and appear lifeless and overly simplistic, and most have a noticeably strong blurring effect that pulls away more detail.
While the game is incredible and the developers put in a lot of passion to revitalize the series, there is one rather large elephant in the room with the game. Downloadable content and season passes for the most part are typically a hit or miss affair, usually with more misses. Likewise, they tend to be mishandled in the fighting game circle.
In the case of Soulcalibur VI, a fan-favorite character, Tira, is day-one downloadable content. While director Motohiro Okubo explained that Tira was being developed but nearly cut out only to be revived by fan requests, it does not make sense to have her behind a paywall.
This is also dubious as she was announced before games completion. In my opinion she would have been better as a free thank you download to players, or even not have her this early, delaying her release to extend the longevity of the game.
Without a doubt Soulcalibur VI is a great reboot of such a beloved fighting game series. So far I have had plenty of hours of fun, and am looking forward to my next match. Despite the game having missteps that bring it down, it still stands as one of the best entries to the Soulcalibur series, and can even be debated as the very best by some.
While the developer has said that if Soulcalibur VI doesn’t do well we might not see a continuation of the series, this will surely nab a strong foothold in the genre and if we get a new entry. It will be interesting to see where it evolves to next, and with what kind of fan-driven refinements.
Soulcalibur VI was reviewed on PlayStation 4 using a review copy provided by Bandai Namco. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.
The Verdict: 8.5
- Fun, easy to learn yet hard to master gameplay
- Great selection of characters
- Character Creator
- Story telling opportunities only follows a few of the cast and misses a ton of opportunities
- Reversal Edge gets annoying and loses its appeal quickly
- Day One DLC